Almost 130 British members of parliament have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose economic sanctions on Israel should the country's new coalition government carry out its plans to annex the Palestinian territories of the occupied West Bank.
In a letter last week, signed by the Conservative Party's former chairman Lord Chris Patten and its former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, makes it clear to Johnson that the annexation is illegal and would be a blatant violation of international law, as reported by British newspaper the Guardian.
Organised by the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu), the letter and its signatories condemn the invasion plan "as a mortal blow to the chances of peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on any viable two-state solution." It stated that Israel is using "the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic to seek to implement this egregious plan. It is vital that the UK does everything in its power to prevent this."
The letter, which is a bi-partisan call not limited to a single party, was also signed by diplomats and MPs often hailed as campaigners against alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party such as Margaret Hodge, acknowledging that the UK imposed sanctions against Russia when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and that the British government would be wrong not to show a similar response to Israel.
Israel's plan was announced last month following the formation of an emergency unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz, with both figures pledging to forcefully seize the West Bank areas of the strategic Jordan Valley and the Jewish settlements which are illegal under international law.
The annexation of the West Bank – planned for 1 July – has long been in Israel's sight, but was established as a renewed and primary goal in US President Donald Trump's so-called 'Deal of the Century' earlier this year, in which a political-economic plan was drawn up to give vast military and territorial advantages to Israel while stripping the Palestinians of their own security forces and around 30 per cent of the West Bank.
It continued that the stand of "international law is crystal clear. The acquisition of territory through war is prohibited. The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 is a recent example where Britain quite properly opposed such acts with appropriate measures, including robust sanctions."
It firmly stated that
the government must now make clear publicly to Israel that any annexation will have severe consequences including sanctions.
"Words are not enough: Prime Minister Netanyahu has ignored our words. We need to prevent his government from setting this alarmingly dangerous precedent in international relations."
Last week, prior to the letter, the UK joined a diplomatic initiative taken by 10 European Union diplomats over a virtual call on Zoom warning against Israel's annexation plans. An imposition of sanctions, however, is thought to be a much more serious step and one that could tarnish the strong bilateral relations between Israel and the UK.
While the US has accepted the plan and allowed it to go ahead, many in the international community have condemned the plan including the United Nations, the numerous Arab states and their foreign ministers, and even the Israeli military has announced its opposition and reluctance.